izards of the Coast is entering the mobile space with Magic: The Gathering Toolbox, available now in the App Store on iPhone, and soon for iPad and Android. In my role on the Magic Digital R&D team, I led the design for this app and I'm here today to give you a much more comprehensive rundown of how awesome it can make your Magic experiences, both in-game and out.
The overarching design philosophy we used in the creation of this app was "onion layers"—provide simple, straightforward interfaces up front, but allow users more complex features as they needed them. Many players have need of a quick life tracker or card searching utility on their devices, and we don't want those players to jump through a lot of hoops to get what they need. On the flip side, some players want to be able to track complex game states or perform different kinds of analysis on their decks, and we want to let them do that too.
Magic: The Gathering Toolbox will be localized into Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Korean to provide players around the world a chance to find the right tool for their games of Magic.
How Much Does it Cost?
The announcement of Toolbox's release noted that although the app would be at no cost, there would be a small fee for use of the deck builder portion of the app. How does that work, exactly?
$0.99 to Unlock Everything
If you are using the deck building feature of the Toolbox and you want to add cards from the latest released set, you need to pay a small fee to unlock it. You'll still be able to see all of the card details for those cards, and they'll show in your search—everyone always gets all the card data at no cost—but it costs $0.99 to unlock these new cards to use in the deck builder. If you wait until there are two new sets you haven't yet unlocked, it's STILL only $0.99 to unlock everything. With the Core Set, everything becomes available for everyone at no cost, including unlocking cards for the deck builder.
You can visualize that every time a new set comes out, it gets added to a list of locked content. It's always $0.99 to unlock the entire list, and we put the list on sale with the Core Set (at no cost!).
So, to use some concrete examples:
- Everyone will get everything up to and including Dark Ascension at launch.
- When Avacyn Restored is released, it's $0.99 to unlock if you want it right away.
- When Magic 2013 is released, everyone gets it at no cost. And, if you didn't feel the need to use new cards in the decks you built and thus haven't yet unlocked Avacyn Restored, you get that at this point too!
- When Hook is released (the late 2012 expansion), it'll be $0.99 again if you want to unlock it right away.
- If you wait until Line is released (the first 2013 expansion), it's $0.99 for both of them.
Everything Apart from Deck Building is Always at No Cost
All of the other features that I'll go into below are always at no cost for everyone, including searching for and seeing the details of the newest cards.
If there's one thing all Magic players have in common, it's playing games of Magic.
When you load up the app and want to start playing a game of Magic right away, we don't want the interface to get in your way. So the first mode, Basic Two-Player, is just two simple life total trackers. Everything else is hidden "below the fold" to avoid overwhelming the players with interface elements they won't necessarily use.
Clicking in the + or – area of the life total does pretty much what you'd expect, and you can hold down to increase the speed of change. When a player's life total gets low, it changes color—useful with the new fateful hour mechanic from Dark Ascension!
When you're done with your game, you can use the Refresh icon in the title bar to start a fresh new game. When you restart the game this way, it doesn't save the game's log, however—to do that, you can find "End Game and Save Log" as an option in the Settings menu next to the Restart Game button. (We'll get back to the log in a moment.)
For each player, you can access specific in-game options for that player in the Game Settings tray, accessible by clicking the crossed-swords icon in the corner of that player's life total area. I'll go through the additional options you can find there and in the Settings menu one by one.
You can customize the player information per player—this includes normal stuff like name and background. Select one of the five colors in solid "life tracker playmat" colors or one of five basic land arts. In addition, you can select a Planeswalker portrait as a player avatar, which is used to more easily identify those players in lists.
When you're starting a game or when cards call for it, you might need access to a randomization tool. Toolbox includes a coin, a six-sided die, a twenty-sided die, and a special tool for determining who chooses who goes first in a game (using the avatar/background selected for the players in the game). You can randomize as often as you like.
Magic's a pretty complicated game, and there are whole classes of cards that ask you to care about other kinds of game state—poison totals for infect, remaining cards in deck for milling, and even mana floating in mana pools for combo decks. Toolbox gives you access to track these extra bits if you have cards or situations that care about them in your game. Each player can have up to five trackers, including life total. You can swap which tracker is the primary one for that player, and then modify it.
For tournament games, you can set up a round timer in the center of the screen. The timer is designed to track remaining time in the round, so it continues to tick no matter where you are in the app, and even when you leave the app to perform other tasks. You can pause the timer (in case there's some sort of tournament-pausing emergency) and it will tick below zero in case of time extensions.
There's also a robust game log feature present in all modes (but most relevant for tournament play)—the game log records all actions taken in the life tracker. This includes damage, changes to any additional trackers, player information changes, randomization events, and a lot more. When you end a game, you can save the game log to refer to later, and you can edit each log entry to make notes inside and after the game.
Other Game Modes
Finally, if you play a lot of Commander, tournament matches, or if you just want total control over the settings for each game you play, you can customize everything about the life tracker feature in your own custom mode settings. The app lets you store and name one configuration as your custom mode, and we provide Commander and tournament-play options as premade modes.
Sometimes, in a game, you need to check the details of a card by name, or you're thinking of building a deck using the new set. The card search feature provides a straightforward interface for searching by card name or rules text.
Toolbox comes loaded with all of the card data, and as new products are released, the card search will get updated automatically as soon as you are connected to the Internet. As soon as Gatherer updates, your device will too! Card images, because of their size, don't come preloaded with the app and instead are downloaded in the background when you're connected. The app will cache this card art using a moderate amount of space, preferentially keeping card images for those recently viewed and those in your decks.
Just like on Gatherer's front page, you can assemble a set of filters that helps narrow down the kinds of cards returned from your search. Name and rules text filtering combines with filtering down to a specific card type or subtype—useful when you are making that new Human-tribal deck or looking to base a strategy around artifacts.
You can also filter by format and by expansion within that format. When you come into card search from the deck builder, it automatically filters to the format of deck you're building. If you aren't sure what kind of deck you want to build, you can just switch format to "any" in order to browse all the cards in the database.
You can do some moderately fancy filtering by color: toggle on or off any specific color, include or exclude colorless cards as desired, require an exact match (a multicolored card containing all of the specified colors), or omit unselected colors (in case you need to omit those blue-red and blue-black cards from your white-blue Commander deck).
You can do basic sorts like name, color, and card type with the release version of Toolbox. The sort is applied within the results you just searched for, so it's easy to combine searching and sorting to quickly find the cards you're looking for.
When you've found the card (or cards) you're looking for, you can view more details like its Oracle text and other properties. On the card details screen, you can click the thumbnail of the card's art to view the full card image from Gatherer. There's also a section below the card properties that has a listing of every printing of the card so far, which you can click to see that specific card's properties.
Multi-part cards, like double-faced cards from Innistrad and Dark Ascension, have each part as a separate record you can swipe through using left-to-right pagination. You can also swipe through the faces of a double-faced card in the card image view.
From the card details screen, you can add a card to a deck you've already created or start a new deck using the card in question. Both of these options—along with marking the card as a "wish list" card to more easily find it later—are available from the Plus icon at the top right of the record. Inside the screen for adding cards to decks, you can specify whether you want to add it to the main deck or sideboard, and in what quantity to add.
But I'm getting ahead of myself—on to the deck builder feature!
You can use Toolbox to build, analyze, and share decks. The card search and deck builder are highly integrated, so can you move pretty easily between them. When you start a new deck, you specify its format and can add a color indicator to make it easy to find in your list of decks.
You can then add all the cards you want from card search using its filters to find what you want, and its Add to Deck function to get the right quantity into your deck. Just as with the search results list, you can go to the details for any card in your decklist by clicking on it.
Edit Quantity, Add Lands, Sort
Toolbox has straightforward but essential features for deck builders: the ability to edit quantity right there in the decklist, along with the same basic sorts available in the card search, and the Magic Online Suggest Lands feature (which will fill your deck up to minimum size using the appropriate basic lands for the cards in your deck).
You can send your finished decklist out to your friends and cohorts, or just email yourself to save the deck on another system. Using your Facebook login, you can have the app post your decklist as a Note to your profile, which you can then edit later. Note that you can take the text decklist format and import it directly into Magic Online to go play right away! (You still need to own the cards, however!)
Draw Test Hand, Analyze
As with deck lists here on DailyMTG.com, you can draw a set of sample hands with your deck to see whether it's working the way you expect it to. With options to mulligan and draw the next few cards off the top, you can map out the first few turns of a game and use that data to tweak your specific card selections.
And, just as you can do on Magic Online, you can run some simple statistics on your deck, like the breakdown of card type, converted mana cost, and color. These two tools together should help master brewers tune their creations in the days leading up to their next tournament.
Man, what a segue!
Toolbox comes loaded with an event calendar showing Magic-relevant events, like Grand Prix, Pro Tours, Prereleases, Release Leagues, and more. You can browse the listing and highlight ones you want to check out again later, and you can even add events from the app to your mobile device calendar to keep everything in one place. If you do, the event will pop an alert to remind you an appropriate amount of time beforehand. (You can undo this later if you don't want the event on your calendar anymore.)
Wizards will update this event calendar throughout the year, without any need for you to update your app. Pretty easy way to get information about upcoming opportunities to play Magic, right?
Even if you can't make it down to your local store for a game of Magic, you can use Toolbox to keep up on Magic current events and strategies. There's a news feature that hooks in directly to the DailyMTG.com RSS feed and delivers articles to your device each day. You can bookmark articles you love and go back to them anytime in the future.
In addition to the official DailyMTG.com feed, you can add your own feeds by supplying that website's RSS feed URL. We know players have a wide array of other Magic content sites they return to day after day, and we want to make it easy for you to put those feeds all in one place—Toolbox.
This version of Toolbox has a simple link to the Store and Event Locator; clicking it takes you out of the app and to that website. The locator has all of the info you need to find games at your local store or places to buy the latest Magic product.
That's the rundown of the set of features you get with your download of Toolbox at launch. Toolbox isn't just a once-and-done product, though—we're committed to supporting it in the future to ensure we deliver the best experience possible. We are definitely looking to add features on what you can do with Toolbox as you play and think about Magic. And finally, we're also happy to receive constructive feedback and bug reports from you Magic players out in the real world, to help us to make Toolbox the best it can be for everyone.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy using Toolbox as much as I have!